From the April 2005 Idaho Observer:
Where in the world are we, anyway?
Shown here above is a common version of the "Mercator Projection" and the "Fuller Projection." Dutch cartographer Gerardus Mercator’s map from 1569 made adjustments to facilitate navigation during the Age of Exploration; American engineer/architect/artist/philosopher Buckminster Fuller’s map becomes a sphere if you fold it up correctly. These maps are obviously very different from one another, yet they are maps of the same thing: Our world. Neither map is accurate for all purposes, but each provide valuable information for certain purposes.
The Peters Projection
German Cartogrpaher Arno Peters published the Peters World Map in 1974. Peters, noting the gross exaggerations and diminunizations of other maps, chose to produce a map intended to be "fair to all peoples."
Maps that preserve land mass shapes, such as Mercator, are called "conformal" projections. The sizes of oceans and land masses become distorted—particularly at the poles.
Peters’ map is an "equal area" map. While the shapes of oceans and land masses become distorted, their relative sizes are preserved. Most noteably, Africa is huge and Europe is very small in this worldview.
Mercator: Map of choice
As western civilization emerged and developed, history was recorded. At various junctures, western civilization has found itself at a crossroads. Right or wrong, paths (politically) chosen at those junctures have heavily influenced the direction of western cultural development.
Among the choices made to influence the development of western civilization was the almost exclusive use of the Mercator Projection as the image of the world’s oceans and land masses. Designed specifically as a navigational map to help European sailors plot a straight line between two ports, the Mercator map does not accurately project the size of land masses.
It does, however, plant the following concepts in the subconscious of those who have had the Mercator Projection burned into their brains as the image of the world:
1. North is "up" (dominant, superior); south is "down" (submissive, inferior).
2. Europe is the center (capital) of the world.
It is easy proving to yourself that the concepts enumerated above are not passive, but very active in our minds. Locate a Mercator (or Robinson) Projection world map and mount it upside down on a wall in your home or office.
The visual presumption of northern hemisphere superiority disappears; the visual presumption of European preeminence also disappears.
Historical and political issues, of course, remain unchanged, but our perceptions of the relationships between continents and countries change dramatically.
To get there you must first know that it exists
A few years ago I was talking to Scott Daumiller of Kalispell, Montana, about the epidemic of federally-ordered road closures and road obliterations in a region known as "the Flathead."
Daumiller, who’s in his 40s, has lived his entire life in the resource and recreation-dependent community, has been an avid outdoorsman and map collector since he was a kid. He has noticed that topographical maps of his area have been changing over the years.
When he was in his teens, Daumiller and his friends would identify caves, mines, cabins and other points of interest on topo maps and go find them. "They’re still there, all right, but the maps don’t mention them any more," Daumiller said.
There has been a definite political agenda afoot to keep people out of the forests. What used to be known as "public lands" are now, as far as the federal government is concerned, "federally-owned" lands.
This change in political climate has prompted the road closures and rules forbidding public access to forest lands. The omission of landmarks and points of interest on maps is a politically-motivated attempt to further diminish public interest in the great outdoors.
State of the Village Report
To use the term "village" in a political sense awakens memories of Hillary Clinton when she was pushing her socialist agenda on America in her capacity as the first lady; if you use the politically-supercharged terms "cultural diversity" or "multiculturalism" in public debate, "liberals" pay attention to what you are saying and "conservatives" become very angry.
This is, of course, the intended outcome: Ordinary people are supposed to be divided over concepts defined by words that allow us to easily identify those of us whose ideas we are to view with disgust.
In truth, advancements in communications and travel technologies have turned the world into a village and we cannot help but be exposed to the diverse spectrum of cultures present in our little planetary village.
The grid map below shows world population—each square represents 1,000,000 people. Attached to the map was a set of four tables called "The State of the Village Report," which presents the world in an interesting light:
If the world were a village of only 100 people, there would be
8 people from Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean
5 from the U.S., Canada and
1 person from Australia or New Zealand
In the village there would be
14 Nonreligious, Agnostics or Atheists
10 members of all other religions
In this 100 person community
80 would live in sub-standard housing.
67 adults would live in the village; half of them would be illiterate.
50 would suffer the overt signs of malnutrition.
33 would not have access to clean, safe drinking water.
24 people would not have electricity.
76 of those who do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.
7 people would own an automobile.
5 would possess 32 percent of the entire village’s wealth; most would be from the U.S.
The poorest one-third of the people would receive 3 percent of the village’s income.
In the village there would be 42 radios, 24 televisions, 14 telephones and 7 computers
(Some villagers would own more than one of each)
The people of the village would have considerable difficulty communicating
14 people would speak Mandarin
8 would speak Hindu/Urdu
8 would speak English—
(This list accounts for less than half the villagers. The others speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French, and 200 other languages).
The point of the exercise
Many people are intimidated by new information that disproves longstanding beliefs. This is not the time of our Founders or the time of Jesus. In fact, we know of those people because they created history when changes had to be made.
Then, as now, we need to use history as a tool to grow and learn from rather than wear it like a ball and chain.
The world is smaller now and people are more numerous. Patrick Martin of Dublin showed me Peters World Map and it was inspiring. It gave me a whole new perspective on the world that is positive, hopeful—and a lot of fun.
Where in the universe are we?
What if the sun and all the planets revolved around the earth?
This edition of The IO was carefully edited to help us look at the world from a completely different perspective. There are four main reasons why the April, 2005 edition ended up this way:
1. It’s the only month of the year that opens with a celebration of what we, as a culture, have truly become.
2. We had a visitor from Dublin for five days last March who introduced us to Hugo Chavez and Peters World Map—which caused us, in chain reaction fashion, to look at several issues much differently than before.
3. There is a hyper-Calvinist pastor and his family in our lives and they introduced us to the concept of "geocentrism" and how to view the ecologically "evolving" area around Mount St. Helens in SW Washington state as a study model for creationism.
4. To look around today and study history is to realize that, however we have been lookin’ at thangs, it don’t work too good.
There never have been any "good ol’ days"—though some are definitely better than others; every era has been challenging to those living in it. The marvelous thing, though, is how every age has produced writers, thinkers, dreamers and doers who, from their experiences, saw a better way—and, like everybody who came before us, we have access to everything that came before us.
PS: If you want to check out "geocentrism," look up Philip Stott, Ph.D.
An end note to worldviewing
The image of the world we’ve held in our minds since kindergarten is a modern adaptation of the Mercator Projection. Let’s point out a few flaws in that image:
1. Our image that land masses in the northern hemisphere are equal to or greater than the southern is incorrect. Total square mileage in the north is 18.9 million; south 38.6 million.
2. Europe appears to be about the same size as South America. Total sq. mi. of Europe is 3.8 million; South America 6.9 million.
3. Alaska appears to be about three times larger than Mexico. Total sq. mi of Alaska is 0.8 million; Mexico 0.7 million.
4. All of North America appears to be about a third larger than Africa. Total sq. mi. of North America is 7.4 million; Africa is 11.6 million.
5. Scandanavia appears a little larger than India. Total sq. mi. of Scandanavia is .4 million; India is 1.3 million.
6. Greenland (and this is the most obvious error) appears to be at least double the size of China. Total sq. mi. of Greenland is 0.8 million; China is 3.7 million.
Once you begin to look at maps for what they are and understand that each map is published to accomplish a specific (and not necessarily) purpose, a whole new and much more realistic view of the world emerges.
If there was any one thing I would suggest home/private schoolers to do differently, it would be to teach their students how to see through maps.
Lots of resources and tools (and, of course, maps) are available online at www.odt.org
or by calling
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